EIPO to establish court for intellectual property

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) is getting ready to change the way it handles trademark, patent and copyright disputes.

Previously intellectual property disputes were resolved via a committee led by the director of EIPO. However, soon a new tribunal court will replace the current committee. Trademark, patent and copyright issues will each have their own court at EIPO. If those cases are appealed they will go to the First Instance Court.

Two years ago, the Civil Service Minster ordered EIPO to establish a department to resolve intellectual property disputes but the office ignored the order and instead used the current committee.

Even though this committee has attempted to protect intellectual property rights, experts said that IP cases should be seen by courts or a specific department solely working to resolve them.

Some companies successfully appealed the committee’s decision. Kangaroo Plastic S.C., Heineken Breweries, Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), and Crown Hotel took their cases to the High Court and had them reversed.

Source at EIPO told Capital that the tribunal court is in the final stages and a draft will be sent to the Council of Ministers.

“When the tribunal court begins working only the judges will rule on cases and the directors and other staff will not be involved,” a source said.

The source said more needs to be done to make people aware of copyright laws.

“There is little public awareness or understanding of the intellectual property laws in the country. Existing laws are not readily accessible even to the educated class. The average person on the street is also ignorant of the touted benefits of intellectual property protection.  Lack of awareness about the laws and administration of copyright constitutes a major inhibition to the development of a sound copyright system in Ethiopia. Meaningful public education at the grassroots level must form a critical component of intellectual property enforcement in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) is an autonomous unit of the Ethiopian Science and Technology Agency. It was established in 2003 to provide legal protection for intellectual property (IP) rights. Under a Director-General the EIPO comprises five core business units and two support units.